Evangel Christian Academy and John Curtis each announced Monday their intention to "play up" in the Division I playoff bracket, which includes teams that play in 5A, 4A and now, 3A classifications during the regular season. Both the Eagles and Patriots are 3A schools, which actually is above where their enrollment would place them if they had to adhere to such boundaries.
The Division I post-season will now include the New Orleans Catholic League (Rummel, Jesuit, Brother Martin, Archbishop Shaw, Holy Cross and Brother Martin) along with Lafayette's Catholic schools (Tuerlings and St. Thomas More), Baton Rouge's largest private schools (St. Paul's and Catholic), John Curtis and Evangel.
Casual fans, as well as those in business attire, will benefit from the powerhouses slugging it out en route to the Dome. The quarterfinal matchups will be state-title worthy tilts.
Evangel principal, Bud Dean told us this afternoon, via e-mail:
"We want our students to have an opportunity to excel against the finest competition, not only on the courts or fields of play, but in the arts, academics, and other parts of their lives. We feel as if competing against the best can only bring out the best in our students. It’s funny that locals know us for our sports championships, but do not know that our drama department has won the Louisiana Drama Festival in Natchitoches the past four years and that our Literary Rally team has produced not only division state champions, but composite, over-all state champions for the past eight years. We had our third National Merit Finalist this past year. As you can see, it is part of our mission of excellence."
"JT (John Curtis, the head coach and athletic director at John Curtis) and I did talk last week as we were wanting to continue that rivalry in the playoffs. He was leaning to playing up, but I did not hear if he did or not."
He did and he sounds fired up about the fallout from the decision. Curtis told the Times-Picayune he hoped by playing in the top "select" classification, it would "help solve some of our problems in our state," in terms of private vs. public schools on the playing field.
This isn't a perfect solution but it's about the best case I can think of. Private schools, with an ability to draw students from outside their district, have long been considered an adversary of the "neighborhood schools".
There has been an advantage enjoyed by some private schools to load up on athletic talent that would otherwise be found in public schools. The last thing the public schools want is to line up against kids that should be in their classrooms and their weight rooms. While that will still occur in the regular season (which remains an oddity), the post-season will now be a true survival of the fittest in both "Select" and "Non-Select".
In addition to the public schools enjoying this maneuver, I have to believe there are private schools outside the Division I arena that welcome the exit of John Curtis and Evangel from their playoff bracket.
There will now just be 11 Division II teams eligible for post-season play according to the Times-Picayune, including the hometown Loyola Flyers. A trip to the Dome is a much more navigable path without the stars and stripes of John Curtis or the "little e's" of Evangel on the opposing sideline.